Sevenoaks lost 20-26 to Maidstone on Saturday 17 October in a compelling game at Knole Paddock. The match had everything that can make London South Division 1 encounters special; intensity in the contact phases, fleet of foot backs play and an outcome that remained in the balance until the dying throes.
Despite the six point margin, one for every extra decade that rugby has been played in Maidstone - since the late 1860s compared to Oaks' formation as recently as 1925 - the hosts had all the beatings of the visitors and missed a few vital chances to close the game out. Experience counts, especially at this level.
The navy and gold started well, soaking up early Maidstone pressure before Winter made the line break, dotted the ball down under the posts and duly converted his own try.
When Maidstone were penalised for infringing as they scrambled to repel another rapid Oaks counter attack, Winter secured the 3 points. 10-0 to Oaks.
Re-starts in rugby can have an impact that's disproportionate to their mundane function, being generally followed by a defending team catch and a punt to safety or a consolidation of the ball. Interruptions to that process tend to be telling.
And so it was that from the Maidstone re-start, the visitors' 8 - Brill, imposing all day - got his hands on the ball, took it up 10 yards and from that momentum his team secured a converted try in the rumbling style that contrasted with Oaks' more expansive play.
Although Maidstone were in amongst it now, two beautifully timed tackles by the Oaks 13, Osgood, each followed by a text book jackal for the ball, meant the two teams entered the half-time break with the home side 17-7 to the good, Oaks having secured a sublime try just before the break. A flurry of hands, darts, and switches from 13-9-10-9-12 led to a Weston (14) try under the posts converted by the reliable Winter
Oaks started the second half by immediately putting themselves under pressure. The kick didn't go the required 10 yards. From the centre-point scrum, Maidstone applied the pressure with a customary pin-point kick from fly-half Trudgeon. Stone stole the Oaks lineout and after a few phases went over the line to peg Oaks back to 17-12.
In their next attack, Sevenoaks were into the opponents' 22 when they were pinged for holding onto the ball that shade too long. The resulting Maidstone penalty kick put Sevenoaks back into their own half. Stone exploited the territorial gain and scored, again from close quarters, another converted try: 17-19 with 20 minutes to go and the game was afoot, Oaks showing all the flair only for a forward pass here or a knock on there to undo the point-scoring opportunities
Sevenoaks continued to press for the win and finally a set of attacking phases resulted in a penalty in front of the posts: 20-19 to Oaks with five minutes to go.
The Maidstone re-start cost the home side the match. Oaks turned the ball over from the catch, Stone set the ball up, and used on overlap well to score a try in the corner that was expertly converted. For all Oaks' pressure in the final moments, roared on by a vocal home faithful, the sequence of pressing plays came close but not close enough. and Maidstone's experience held firm. In all respects, it had been a cracking encounter.
"The lads competed in every department, but we weren't as clinical as we needed to be," said head Coach Adam Bowman. "We have a few areas to focus on in training this week before we go again, against Dover, in what promises to be another tough fixture."
Next Saturday 24 September Sevenoaks Rugby 1st XV hosts Dover at Knole Paddock, 3:00pm kick off.
1. Dan Power (Vice)
2. Scott Sedgwick
3. Tom Simmons
4. Stuart Coleman (C)
5. Tom Naismith
6. Sam Mccorry
7. Max Skinner
8. Simon Humble
9. Seb Goodhew
10. Oliver Shirtcliff
11. Jonny Short
12. Isaac Winter (Vice)
13. Shadyn Osgood
14. Matt Weston
15. Jamie Owen